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What is Austria’s official emergency-warning phone app and do I need it?

Austria is working on improving its emergency warning system, but in the meantime, there is an official app you should have on your phone.

What is Austria's official emergency-warning phone app and do I need it?
The app allows you to receive possibly life-saving notifications at any time wherever you are. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

Following severe storms in Austria last week, the Austrian government has taken its first steps in creating a new warning system in which citizens can be messaged on their mobile phones when extreme weather develops unexpectedly.

However, currently, the country also has other warning methods, including the Ministry of the Interior’s smartphone app called KATWARN, which can warn of potential emergencies and disasters.

What is KATWARN Austria?

KATWARN Austria is a system that displays information and warnings from various authorities on a location-based or topic-related to smartphones, the Ministry of Interior says.

The app complements the existing warning options such as sirens, loudspeakers and media broadcasts. The advantage is that it can immediately warn people of any significant events, informing them of the danger and, just as important, giving immediate information on how to behave.

What types of warning may I get?

According to the Bundesministerium Inneres, some of the examples given for when KATWARN is used include police emergencies, natural disasters and extreme weather hazards and any major events or industrial accidents.

Additionally, the app may be used for call outs to the public, for example, with information on missing persons.

READ ALSO: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

How does it work?

You first need to download the app by accessing your app store and searching for “KATWARN Österreich/Austria”. Here is the link for Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store.

You should then turn on the “Guardian Angel” mode, which sends alerts to you about warnings regarding your current location.

It’s also possible to add specific places to get alerts. So, for example, you can add the region where you have a weekend house, your workplace, or a family member’s address and get alerted for those areas too.

Currently, all of Austria has an alert for Covid-19. If you click on the information icon, you can read (in German) about what to do if you feel sick and have access to important links and information about the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

What other alerts are there in Austria?

People can be warned by SMS when a storm is on the way, but only if they register with the relevant local services.

There is also the siren alarm system, which is tested every weekend in Austria outside Vienna (and yearly in the capital).

A new mobile phone warning system will send messages to all phone users in the future.

Mobile phone operators are waiting for Austria’s government to put the required regulations in place. According to the Digitization State Secretariat, the ordinance went into the four-week review at the weekend but is not publicly available.

In Vienna, the official Stadt Wien app brings essential news and pushes notifications on traffic disruption near you, weather alerts or civil emergencies.

You can find the ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna here.

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WEATHER

What are the chances of a white Christmas in Austria this year?

Yes, it's a bit early for Christmas weather forecasts, but it hasn't stopped meteorologists making predictions. Here's what they have to say about the possibility of snow in Austria this Christmas.

What are the chances of a white Christmas in Austria this year?

In less than a month it will be Christmas Eve and the suspense is rising on whether there will be a white Christmas, especially at low altitudes, broadcaster ORF said.

The weather models do not yet reach that far, but ORF Vorarlberg meteorologist Thomas Rinderer has looked at the statistics in a bid to predict the snowfall this year.

FOR MEMBERS: Everything that changes in Austria in December 2022

On average, there is a white Christmas in Bregenz every three to six years. The last time was in 2011, so statistically speaking, a white Christmas in the Rhine Valley would be more than overdue.

However, the first long-term forecasts see a relatively mild winter overall, so it’s unlikely that an extremely cold winter is imminent. This follows the warmest October in Austria since records began although, according to ORF meteorologists, “surprises are still possible”.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

This is because even in a mild winter there can still be a lot of snow. 

The Copernicus climate change service of the EU is predicting winter will be dry from France to Germany, but the Mediterranean area will be humid. This can lead to precipitation moving up from Italy into Austria where it’s likely to become snow.

Last year, some parts of Austria (especially in the west) enjoyed a white Christmas after a cold December and plenty of snowfall. This year, many regions in the Alps are already coated in snow although temperatures are set to rise next week.

We’ll keep you updated on the forecasts in the coming weeks. 

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